March 13, 2013
CHICAGO - After a sluggish first half, Loyola kicked it into gear after halftime, shooting 60% in the second half to turn a one-point halftime lead into a 71-54 victory over Milwaukee in a Horizon League Quarterfinal game tonight at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers (16-14) will face Youngstown State in Friday's semifinals. Milwaukee's season ends with a 9-20 mark.
Loyola got out of the blocks early, using six early points from Simone Law to take a 10-2 lead. Back-to-back layups from Taylor Johnson and another Law basket made it a 16-5 game with just under eight minutes elapsed but Milwaukee began to chip away. An Avyanna Young basket capped a quick 6-0 spurt that made it a five-point game and the Panthers cut it to one (24-23) on an Ashley Green basket with 3:40 to go. Two more hoops from Law bumped the lead back to five but the Ramblers did not score over the final 2:15 of the period with the visitors able to cut their deficit to one (28-27) at intermission. Loyola struggled to find an offensive rhythm, shooting just 31% in the period, but relied on a swarming defense that limited Milwaukee to 34% accuracy, a percentage aided by seven first-half blocked shots.
A steal and layup from Monica Albano opened the second-half scoring but UWM answered with the first made three-pointer by either team to even the game at 30. Baskets from Troy Hambric, Albano and Johnson helped Loyola immediately restore a six-point lead and the margin reached double figures again at 10 (47-37) on an Ayrealle Beavers free throw. Milwaukee managed to get back within seven with 5:50 to go before the home team put it away. Hambric knocked down a 17-footer to kickstart a 10-0 run over the next three minutes that made it a 63-46 game and the Ramblers cruised from there.
Loyola hit 18-of-30 (60%) from the floor in the second half to finish the game at 44% while the Panthers continued to struggle, shooting 26% after halftime to finish at 30% for the game.
Law finished with 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the way, receiving support from Johnson (18 points, seven rebounds) and Hambric, who scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half and tied her career high and Loyola's single-game record with six blocked shots.
Third-seeded Loyola moves on to Friday's semifinals where it will take on second-seeded Youngstown State at the Kress Center in Green Bay, Wis. It marks just the fourth semifinal appearance in program history for the Ramblers, the most recent coming back in 2003. Tip time is set for 5 p.m.